CLEMSON - Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele will have to plot how to slow the ACC's hottest quarterback without having perhaps Clemson's most feared defender at his disposal.
Turns out sophomore defensive end Da'Quan Bowers' injury was worse than initially stated.
Bowers will likely miss Saturday's 7:45 p.m. showdown against Florida State after spraining both the medial collateral ligament (MCL) and posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) in his right leg, coach Dabo Swinney said during his Sunday teleconference with reporters.
Bowers was injured when a teammate rolled onto his leg after Clemson's first defensive play last Saturday against Coastal Carolina. About a half-hour after the team's 49-3 victory, player and coach said they were informed Bowers would probably be ready to play against FSU because Bowers had only hurt his PCL.
But both were under the impression that the MRI results had already returned, which Swinney labeled a miscommunication with the medical staff.
The MRI returned later to reveal the MCL sprain, which is of a more serious nature.
Bowers is being listed as doubtful for the FSU game, and Swinney said there is no timetable for his return, although the injury does not appear to be a season-ending.
"I hope he's just out this ballgame, but you never know," Swinney said. "He could be out a couple of games. Could be just one. I don't know. Everyone heals up differently."
"If he's not able to play, that's a big blow to us. There's not many Da'Quan Bowers walking around here. That will be a big challenge for our other guys to step it up."
Freshman Malliciah Goodman figures to move into the starting strong-side end position, with backup bandit end Andre Branch sharing time there as well.
They will be charged with helping rein in FSU quarterback Christian Ponder, who has averaged 306.6 passing yards per game this season and thrown for nine touchdowns the past three contests.
Ponder played with bruised ribs for most of Saturday's 45-42 triumph over N.C. State, coach Bobby Bowden said Sunday, but there appears little doubt Ponder will play against Clemson.
Prime time. ESPN will televise the 7:45 p.m. FSU game, making it Clemson's second night game of the season and long-awaited first at home.
Rushing to judgment. The Tigers had a season-high 252 rushing yards against Coastal Carolina, 141 in the second half.
While they appeared to have trouble generating much of a push, particularly on first down, Swinney viewed it as progress.
"We were very dominant at the point of the attack," Swinney said. "Had no sacks, a lot of big plays, got to play a lot of guys, and continuing to get a little better on third down and red zone."
Extra points. In both throwing and catching a touchdown pass Saturday, senior receiver Jacoby Ford became the first Clemson player to do so in a single game since 1950 (Ray Mathews, vs. Presbyterian). ... The Tigers extended their streak of fourth quarters without a touchdown to 12 straight games. C.J. Spiller's season-long streak of games with a play of 60-plus yards came to a halt. ... Redshirt freshman safety Rashard Hall, awarded the team's defensive player of the game honor, has four interceptions - most by a Clemson freshman since Justin Miller tied a Clemson single-season record with eight in 2002.